by Staff Writer – Jason Langvee
Allow me to preface this essay with the notion that there have been countless great players that have come and gone in the CFL. There remain many that will lace up their cleats for the 2014 season, and more still that have yet to achieve the honour of playing in the CFL. Yesterday however, in a hotel ballroom in Montreal, CFL fans witnessed the departure of a legend. I could go on with the same statistics we saw flash across our screens as AC delivered his retirement speech, and in doing so, paint a vivid picture as to why #13 will go down in Canadian Football (and professional football) history. For me though, the passing yards, touchdown passes, and completed passes will always take a back seat to the player and person that I’ve admired since learning about the CFL.
In TSN’s “Engraved on a Nation” special highlighting his life, Calvillo returned home to a suburb of California where he and his family grew up. From a young age AC had to deal with great trials and tribulations. Instead of turning down the path that so many in similar situations do, he turned to sport, and in doing so commenced a trajectory that would only stop once he hit the pinnacle of football. By this time, most CFL fans know about the hitches that held Anthony back throughout his career. No matter what came into AC’s way though, he always appeared to come back bigger and better.
A native to Montreal myself, I moved to Ontario the very same year that the Alouettes put AC on the field for the first time. Like most children though, my allegiances reflected that of my household. As such, the Canadiens, the (then) Expos, and of course the Alouettes remained my home teams, even if that meant I was perpetually a minority among my friends. That didn’t matter though. Having Anthony Calvillo on my side meant that no matter what subset of my friends were around me, be they Hamilton or Toronto fans, I always had a fighting chance. Jock Climie mentioned in his address yesterday that he considers AC one of the best ever, because if #13 was behind center, it almost seemed unfair to any opposing team. That was my guy. That was my answer whenever I would get asked “Why Montreal?” The Al’s went on to appear in 8 Grey Cups, winning 3 in the time that I have lived in Ti-Cat/Argo territory, which was always a nice statistic to have in my back pocket when being harassed for my loyalty to the angry birds.
It wasn’t until recently though, that my respect for Calvillo really flourished. Learning about his battles with cancer, both personally and through his wife. How he was almost out of options before moving to Montreal, having struggled in Hamilton and Las Vegas. How through 9 head coaches with the Alouettes, he was consistently required to field a winning offence. These are demands that would cripple the strongest of men. Yet AC made it through each challenge, back onto the field, and right into the record books as a professional football’s all-time leading passer.
Today, Calvillo took out an entire page in the Montreal Gazette to thank his fans for remaining on his side throughout his career. For this reason, and so many others, a man like Anthony Calvillo can never be measured on his athletic accolades alone. His loyalty, perseverance, strength of character, optimism, and tenacity are what he will be remembered for. These qualities, coupled with his athletic accolades, define more than a retired athlete, or a future Hall-of-Famer. They define a legend.
I was 4 years old when Anthony debuted in Las Vegas. 2014 will be the first CFL season that I can remember without AC. That is why yesterday, I witnessed the departure of a legend.
All of the best with what the future has in store for you AC!